My Summer Bucket List 2013

I am a list person. Always have been. When I have a ton of things to do, I make a list. When I am trying to learn something new, I make a list. Important events/dates? I make a list. Instructions: list. Directions: list. Sometimes, I even make a list for my lists…

That being said, I  have a bucket list for my life (which maybe I’ll share one day), but I thought it would be fun to do one just for the Summer. –Hooray for cliché blog posts!- There are some things that I have already completed, and will include anyway, but there are plenty more that I would like to do, or at least attempt to do.

  1. Brew and bottle beer #2. Done. It will be ready to drink by July 4! P.S. it’s DELICIOUS! And I’m not just saying that. Turned out way better than we thought!
  2. Hike a 14-er. I haven’t done this for a looooooooong time. Done. Hiked Mt. Elbert: elevation 14,443ft.
  3. Go camping.
  4. Water ski. Ok, ok attempt to water ski. Kind of done. Attempted to surf behind a boat. Lake surfing? Boat surfing?
  5. Go to a Rockies game. I can’t believe I haven’t been to one yet this Summer! DONE! I got to go to Todd Helton’s final home game. Ever. He has been my favorite player, and one of my good friends gave me a ticket right behind home plate. I also managed to snag a Todd Helton bobble head doll. It’s proudly placed in my window sill. 

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  1. Plant a veggie garden. Done (See Let Your Garden Grow!).  Above and beyond done. Reserve your squash and cucumbers now! We will have plenty to go around!
  2. Harvest and eat veggies out of our own garden. I cannot wait to do this! Done. And they are awesome!
  3. Get back in to a workout routine. It’s important to me, so I thought I’d include it. Mission hot bod by 26! Done! I even registered for a half marathon the day before my birthday! 
  4. Celebrate 1 year with my man. I know, *gag*. Ok, stopping the mush now. Done. 🙂 Starting over. I don’t need someone else to define who I am. Except for my dog. I’ll keep him.
  5. Catch a big fish and eat it. Here fishy, fishy, fishy.
  6. Move to a new house. This will be happening within the week. Wasn’t originally planned for the Summer, but flowing with life’s curveballs. Done. SO glad it’s done. 
  7. Hit a homerun. Done. If I could high-five myself I would.
  8. Go to a concert at Mishawaka Amphitheatre. I’ve never been!
  9. Buy a ticket to the Philippines. This will hopefully be happening soon for a trip in December! Done. Will be leaving Dec. 26. I love new adventures.
  10. Buy a new car. Done. Again, not originally planned.
  11. Create a budget list for myself and see where I can cut expenses (see #14 & #15). Done. Although it’s not going so well…
  12. Read 5 books. Didn’t quite hit 5, but I finished 3. 
  13. Water fight. ‘Nuff said.
  14. Learn how to compost. For the veggie garden of course.
  15. Unplug myself for a few days – no phone, computer, etc. I actually enjoy doing this.
  16. Take a road trip with no destination in mind. Hopefully I’ll end somewhere cool. Or lost. But I think that’s the point.
  17. Attend the local Sustainable Living FairActually, I will now be volunteering at it!!
  18. Go to a museum.
  19. Run a 5K. I’ve never officially done a race. Been training and running longer than a 5K. Signed up for a half marathon in September and a 10K in October.
  20. Go to a rodeo. I grew up going to them every Summer and haven’t been for a while.
  21. Take a night hike.
  22. Watch a sunrise. Yikes that’s early. Done. I always forget how breathtaking they are. Especially in Colorado. 
  23. See a meteor shower. Love watching these.
  24. Go to the Farmer’s MarketsDone. But will continue to go because I love them. 
  25. Spend some time outside every day. So far, so good.
  26. Learn a new skill. Done. Learning how to can and preserve!
  27. Attempt Geocaching.
  28. Go on a picnic.
  29. Make homemade granola bars.
  30. Go to an amusement park. I LOVE roller coasters!!
  31. Attend Film on the Rocks. I’ve only been to concerts here…never the movies.
  32. Go to the drive-in. I haven’t been in a long, long time.
  33. Do the brew tours. Again. Done. Always a good time.
  34. Actually ride my bike to work. ….if I can remember how to ride it. Jk (I hope).
  35. Take time to appreciate the little things.

Wow. I have a lot to do this Summer. Guess I better get started!

Maybe I should make a list about where to start….

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Let Your Garden Grow!

There’s really nothing better than fresh vegetables.

Except for when you grow them yourself. That extra little touch of TLC and knowing exactly where your food came from makes gardening such a rewarding hobby. I can say that, because as of, well, two days ago, I am a self-proclaimed organic gardener; I’m going to go ahead and add that to my repertoire, and I have the blisters to prove it. I am so excited for the first season of growing my own food and learning what all goes in to it.

Aaron and I decided we wanted to grow our own fresh vegetables this year, and, while he has done this many many many times before, this was really my first time gardening outside of simply watering flowers. Needless to say, I didn’t really know what to do.

We started with seeds and germination stations. Lots and lots and lots of them.

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This was one of 7

Leaf lettuce, spinach, kale, green onion, yellow squash, cucumbers, arugula, beans, peas, zucchini, peppers, and carrots.

Keeping everything organic was, and is, really important to us, and we have succeeded so far, even from the seedling and germination process. We wanted no synthetics. The reality is, it doesn’t get very exciting…until you see that first tiny little green sprout – that’s when it gets real. It’s the first miniature ‘hello’ from what will be your dinner a few months down the road.

Once they got big enough, we transferred them into solo cups – yes they can be used for more than just adult frothy beverages. We put a slit in the bottom of each cup for drainage and then potted each plant individually into them. Our original labels got a little jumbled in the germination stations, so we guestimated what a few of the plants were and labeled each solo cup. Needless to say our ‘carrots’ were definitely not carrots, but peppers (which was a pleasant surprise because we thought that they had all died out). Unfortunately, the kale and spinach decided vegetable heaven was a better alternative for them. The plants can actually stay in these cups for a long time, which made it nice until we could find a home for them.

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We got extremely lucky and were able to reserve some brand new community garden beds for the season. We originally ‘rented’ two of them, but quickly got our hands on two more, as we have a ton of plants.

When we showed up, the beds were all dried out and weeded over. And that’s when the work begins. Within minutes we had broken the rake that we brought with us. Thank goodness for Home Depot. After soaking all the beds, we were finally able to pull the weeds and till the soil. To supplement the soil provided, we used Maxfield’s Organic Soil Conditioner, Maxfield’s Organic Planting Mix, and some composted manure. I bought these all at Ace Hardware.  Delish.

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The beginning

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Tilled and supplemented

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Soil, anyone?

Let me tell you, hand-tilling compacted soil is HARD.

After all the beds had beautifully tilled soil and supplements, thanks to yours truly, it was time to start the planting.

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Here’s how we broke down our garden beds:

One bed we dedicated strictly to cucumbers, because we have so many plants. We want to make our own pickles with them, too.

Cucumber bed

Cucumber bed

Pickle recipe

  • For brine: combine 3 cups water with 2-3 tbs of kosher salt, 6 tbs of white vinegar, stir until dissolved. Cut 2-3 full size cucumbers in slices or spears. Layer cucumbers in a dish or bowl (Corningware works well) with sprigs of fresh dill. Pour brine over cucumbers and grate 1-2 cloves of garlic on top. Cover and refrigerate 2 days before eating.

One bed has lettuce, beans, and arugula.

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Lettuce on left. Beans in middle. Arugula on right.

One for yellow squash, since the plants will get large.

Yellow squash bed.

Yellow squash bed

And one for zucchini and peppers.

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Zucchini on the outside. Peppers in the middle.

Obviously we still have several plants left and will be planting them in large planter buckets. And probably giving the rest away that we just don’t have room for.

After hours and hours of gardening and planting 177 vegetable plants (yes, I counted), instead of getting bored or tired, I got the urge and desire to plant EVERYTHING! So I went out and got some broccoli plants, a yellow pear tomato plant, and the last cilantro and basil plant that the nursery had. For potting soil, I used BlackGold Organic Potting Soil. I’ve turned into a planting fiend! It’s addicting!

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Broccoli

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Yellow pear tomato plant

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My one little cilantro and basil plant

I had to make myself stop and call it a day.

The hard part is done. Creating a home for the vegetables was more rewarding than I thought it was going to be and was very successful. I think I’ve found my new favorite hobby. I can’t wait to watch our garden grow!

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What a beautiful view!

Klondike helped, too!

Klondike helped, too!

Do you have a garden? What’s  your favorite vegetable to plant?

Further reading:

Organic vs. non-organic soil

Vegan Diaries – Hitting Home

Originally posted on http://shrinkingjeans.net

vegan diaries

Yep. It happened. Twice. I went to a restaurant where all I could possibly have on their menu was the hummus appetizer, a salad (modified), or the edamame appetizer. Oh, I supposed I could’ve also had the olive plate, too. I feel stuffed just reading all that…. Then again I failed to research the menu before I went there, thinking that there would most certainly be something that I could eat…besides just a salad. I thought wrong. I even asked my server if there was anything they could do; I was that person. Being a server myself, I was very polite; I didn’t want to push it or come off annoying. Even with all my efforts, my answer came in the form of a strong ‘no.’

But, I learned my lesson and now know to research menus online or call beforehand.

I’ve never before had to think about that, because I’ve never had any sort of ‘dietary restrictions’ (minus going gluten free for a few months). It’s a new perspective to see how difficult it can be to go out for a meal, depending on how accomodating the menu, staff, and chef are. Then again, I have ‘cut’ quite a few things out of an American diet. It amazes me how many things have meat or dairy and cannot be altered because that’s mainly the meal.

It’s funny how another perspective has been changing for me, too. I don’t find more that I’ve ‘cut’ things out of my diet, but that other people just add more to theirs. It may not make sense to many people, but it’s a different way of looking at it. We’ve come so far out of touch with meals that are fresh and natural, free from GMOs and preservatives and pesticides and corn. Does such a thing exist anymore? That being said, I’m becoming more familiar with my grocery store environment (I hate the grocery store), and am learning which brands I trust, which I don’t, and getting very good at reading labels and ingredients. I also am learning my way better and better around the kitchen. At 25, I don’t really cook. It’s not, nor has ever been my thing. Chopping, slicing, dicing, mixing all seem time-consuming and require a lot of patience. But, I’m getting better and coming to terms with it. Baby steps. I have managed to stumble my way through some recipes, and even (kind of) come up with my own.

Eat Of The Week

Kitchen Sink Tacos

ks taco These have pretty much everything but the kitchen sink in them (yay awkward American expressions!). I literally took out almost every vegetable in my refrigerator for the taco/fajita filling. I started by sauteeing onion, garlic, and asparagus in some olive oil. After those became soft I added red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, serrano peppers for some spice, shredded zucchini, crimini mushrooms, black beans, corn, cilantro, and a whole mess of spices (use your favorite taco or fajita blend). While I let that all marinade, I chopped up roma tomaotes, avocado, and lettuce for toppings. Additionally I made a creamy sauce with vegan mayonaise, cilantro, lime juice, crushed red pepper, black pepper, salt, and probably something else I don’t remember (I got the idea from one of my recipe books). They may look a little grey and bland, but these guys are packed with flavor! Use you favorite veggies, or whatever you have in your fridge — they went over extremely well with friends. No meat and all.

Now, I actually have 2 Eats Of The Week. The 2nd one being:

Delicious Vegan Chili

A Colorado March winter day, with 6 new inches of snow calls for a big bowl of chili. I found this recipe and was sold. This was also modified, of course, by adding a ton more veggies, extra beans, and an extra can of diced tomatoes. That means it needed extra seasonings. Taste test to your liking.

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All the veggies chopped up and ready to go

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The final result

Craving Of The Week

I don’t really drink milk in the first place. I’ve been using almond milk for a very long time. For my boyfriend, who’s doing this challenge with me, that has been the most difficult thing to give up. As a frequent milk drinker, he’s finding that other forms of milk don’t really compare; they don’t taste the same. I happen to LOVE almond milk, but he has a little more difficulty adjusting to different foods. When it comes to milk, there are a few things that really stick out to me: we are the only species on the planet that drinks another species’ milk. I find that a little odd. Don’t get me wrong, I was raised on it and don’t have a problem drinking a glass now and then, it’s just not something in my every day diet. While there may be health benefits to a glass of milk a day, there are also cons, including a high carbon footprint, how you actually get your milk, what’s done to it, and what’s done to the cows. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

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Eye Opener Of The Week

Food, Inc.

Wow. What a crazy world we live in. This film will not tell you what to eat. This film will tell you what you’re already eating. And that’s even worse. It’s not made to push vegetarianism or criticize someone for eating veal, it’s made to tell you about the food monopoly that we’re encouraging on a daily basis. It’s an industry that compromises food and the best interests of the people by making nutritionally void, chemical filled, artificial flavored meals more affordable than a head of lettuce. And it’s doing it one conglomerate at a time, putting the local, independent farmers, who can actually produce fresh, natural, good-for-you food, out of business.


Facts that really stuck out to me:

  • The average supermarket has over 47,000 items on the shelves. Over 70% of those have corn in them.
  • A chicken can be born, raised in a pitch black environment, loaded with meds and antibiotics, and butchered and ready to eat in 49 days. That’s a month and a half, folks. Their breasts grow so large that they cannot physically walk during their 49-day lifespan.
  • A fast-food hamburger can contain meat from up to 100 different cows. Bettie, Bessie, Barney…..
  • Cows are not meant to eat corn. They are meant to eat grass. Because corn is cheaper and more easily disposable, that’s what they are raised on. In doing so, their stomachs cannot digest the corn, and their stomachs become breeding grounds for E.coli bacteria. The solution? Washing beef in ammonia and chlorine to destroy these bacteria before they are sold to grocery stores. The kicker: it would take only 5 days of feeding grass in place of corn to kill nearly all the E.coli bacteria.
  • We are training fish to eat corn. WHAT?!
  • The USDA is allowed to regulate what constitutes organic food and when your milk is past due, but it does not have the authority to shut down a meat plant if they are selling tainted meat.
  • Food, Inc. took 6 years to produce. In that timeframe, Robert Kenner attempted to interview 50 of the largest food producers in America. Not a single one agreed. These include Tyson, Smithfield Farms, and Monsanto.

I have a newly found appreciation for local farming and intend to do my best to get my hands on independent farmer produce. Quality over quantity and local community support. I’m all for it.

This vegan adventure definitely hit home for me this past week between learning where I can and cannot go out to eat (and knowing I have to do my research), to understanding the importance of local farming and where your food is truly coming from. We don’t live in a perfect world, but we can do our best to make adjustments toward a healthier one.

Vegan Diaries – Get Vegucated

Originally posted on shrinkingjeans.net

Vegan Diaries

“WHAT?!” I exclaimed. I’d been thinking it would be fun to do, but never said anything aloud. Never in a million years did I think he’d want to do it, too. My boyfriend, Aaron, and I were watching a documentary about 3 random people in New York who were challenged to become vegans for 6 weeks. A vegan is someone who does not consume (or use) animal or dairy products; they abide strictly by a plant-based diet. The documentary, Vegucated (well worth a look, and it’s on Netflix!), follows these people on their journey to the grocery store, to the kitchen, and to their understanding of veganism based on the education they receive. It’s funny, enlightening, and informative.

About halfway through the documentary, he suggested it would be something fun to do together. Uhhhhhhh, let me give you a little insight. This truly Southern Louisianan wanna-be Coloradoan lives on a diet of bread, potatoes, pasta, ice cream, pizza, hamburgers…you get the picture. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great cook. Here’s the kicker: he hates vegetables! And not just a little bit. Hence, my reaction: “WHAT?!”

I do my best to be mindful of what I eat for the most part, but have a wicked weakness for ice cream/frozen yogurt, seafood, and cheese….not together.


But, there you have it. Based on his suggestion (notice how I’m taking zero credit), from March 11 to April 11 we will be completely vegan. No meat, no eggs, no dairy (which means no cheese, which is a horrible, horrible thing). No animal products of any kind. Thank Mother Nature I can still have coffee! During the next week we will do a weigh in, do ‘before’ pics, get our blood drawn to check cholesterol levels (and maybe a few other things), go grocery shopping, find recipes, and mentally prepare. I’ll go ahead and add the disclaimer that we’re not doing this to lose weight. We’re doing this as an adjustment to our lifestyle and eating habits. It’s going to be quite the challenge, especially since we’ll be in different states for part of the time, making it harder to keep each other in check and resist a bacon cheeseburger or some frozen yogurt supreme goodness. I was also banking on Aaron doing the majority of the cooking, I’m not exactly kitchen savvy – usually anything that could go wrong, will. I did take the liberty to order a vegan cookbook, though, mostly because I liked the name of it. Whether or not I actually attempt to make one of the recipes is a different matter.

The Sexy Vegan Cookbook

I’ve never thought about going vegan before. Ever. But things change, and I do love a good challenge. If you’ve thought about it, or even if it’s the most ludacris idea and furthest of your food desires, I encourage you to watch the documentary or do some reasearch on veganism. Afterward, if something has peaked your interest and you’re so inclined (I might be pushing it), join us on this challenge and journey. Even if it’s just for a week. Or even a day. We’d love to hear about your experiences!

My goals for this personal challenge:

  • Become more familiar with the vegan/vegetarian community
  • Gain an appreciation for a strict plant-based diet
  • Actually cook a few recipes from the cookbook
  • DON’T CHEAT!
  • Be an inspiration (hopefully) for those interested in trying it
  • Learn – I feel like this will be happening a lot
  • Have fun!

If any of you have already taken the plunge to veganism and have any advice, suggestions, and favorite recipes, please help us! We will most certainly need it.

Becoming a Southern Belle?

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I’ve been to South America and South Asia (Indonesia), but before last August (2012), I had never been to the South in North America. That changed when I started dating a Southerner from Louisiana. Born and raised in Colorado, I’m not a huge fan of humidity, and neither is my curly hair, which becomes ridiculously unruly and unmanageable the closer to sea level I get. I’d never had any reason to go until then. It rains more than any place I’ve seen. Colorado is lucky to get a few thunderstorms a year – this is an almost daily occurrence down there. Yep, it’s definitely different.

A Southern Belle is something I’ll never be, but I’ve definitely learned my share of skills and had some crazy experiences down there. A few things I’ve learned and learned how to do:

*A new language. That’s right, the South has it’s own language. They are efficient people – they take one big breath and say everything they have to say in one sentence very long word without breaking in between. Often, they will shorten words so as not to use up energy with those extra syllables. Then, they will stare at you until you respond, whether or not you understood anything that came out of their mouth. Nod. A lot.

IMG_0198IMG_0199*Crawfish season is revered, and you best get your order in asap or watch out for rowdy people throwin ‘bows for the last pound. There is a crawfish hierarchy that is established among restaurants as to whose is the best – this is dictated through a drawn-out conversation by crawfish consumers between juciy bites discussing the seasoning of these ones to so-and-so’s down the street. Yet, they all get eaten all the same. Oh, and size does matter.

*Coke is soda is water. Any sort of bubbly soda is stored and stocked in houses and establishments like they’re preparing for a world-wide shortage. The only thing they’re missing is for it to come out of their faucets. Everything is called Coke – it’s just a matter of what kind of Coke you’d like.

*Some places are dark and dirty, while others resemble an extraordinary oasis. I’ve been on one plantation there, Houmas House, and it is one of the prettiest places I’ve seen. Also, some of the houses we’ve driven by are incredible. Quite a contrast between those and the poverty of New Orleans. They all have one thing in common, though, the culture of the people. The culture is tangible and hard not to get caught up in. It’s a mixture of feelings: old and new, music and art, cajun, french, american, wealth and poverty, history and the present.

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Houmas

House

Plantation

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*The food is phenomenal, plentiful, and very filling.

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And yet we eat, and eat, and eat some more!

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Other things I learned in Louisiana:

IMG_0203How to shoot a gun

 

 

 

 

How squirrell tastes (I didn’t think I’d actually hit the little guy)

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How to wedge, throw, and trim my very first pot

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How to make apple butter

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I’ve also been deep-sea fishing, hurricane drinking, regular fishing, insect identifying, frog leg eating, orange picking, running from slugs (irrational fear), walking down Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, sipping cafe au lait and eating beignets from Cafe Du Monde. Although it’s very different from home and almost like another world, it’s a fun place to visit and I’m excited to see what the next trip has in store for me.

I’ll just be a Colorado girl in a Southern Belle world.